Special Topics and Course Descriptions

Fall 2017


EN 590 Modern Life-Writing: Public Texts, Private Selves

Instructor: Dr. Caroline Krzakowski; ckrzakow@nmu.edu

In this seminar, we will read a variety of texts by modern British writers that have been defined as “life-writing”—memoir, biography, autobiography, diary—and engage critically with these genres. In recent years, the resurgence of interest in life-writing has been marked by shifts in thinking about the everyday, about the construction of the subject, and about time and interiority. We will ask what modern life-writing shares with antecedents such as Augustine’s Confessions, Montaigne’s Essais, and Pepys’ Diary and think about how modernity has shifted ideas about self-impression and self-inscription. Some of the questions that will drive our discussion include: how does memory shape the writing of a life and the changing subject? What constitutes self-impression and how do the abstraction and impersonality characteristic of modernity affect how writers write the self as a changing subject? How do forms such as the novel enter into dialogue with genres and practices of life-writing? Along the way, we will read contemporary critical and theoretical texts that shed light on the concerns of these types of texts, their literariness, and the relationship between autobiography and fiction.


Primary Texts:


Virginia Woolf, Selections from Diaries Vols. I-V (1909-1941).

Harold Nicolson, Selections from Diaries (1929-1964).

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922).

Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (1933).

George Orwell, Such, Such Were the Joys (1952).

Jessica Mitford, Daughters and Rebels (1960).

Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman (1987).

Buchi Emecheta, Head Above Water (1986).

Muriel Spark, Curriulum Vitae (1992).

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (2001).

Jeanette Winterson, Why be Happy if you Could be Normal? (2011).


Secondary texts: (Please refer to EduCat for selections)


Di Battista, Maria. Modernism and Autobiography.

Jolly, Margaretta. Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms.

Butler, Judith. Giving an Account of Oneself.

Berryman, Charles, “Critical mirrors: Theories of Autobiography.” Mosaic 32.1 

Hodgkin, Katharine and Susannah Radstone. Contested Pasts: The Politics of Memory.

Marcus, Laura. Autobiographical Discourses.

Saunders, Max. Self-Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature.

Whitehead, Anne. Memory.


Winter 2018



EN 495/570:  The Harlem Renaissance 
Instructor:  Lynn Domina (ldomina@nmu.edu)

Description: The Harlem Renaissance marked the beginning of an undeniable flourishing of African-American literature, music, and visual art. Some critics consider it the most important African-American cultural movement of the 20th century; few critics would dispute its significance for the first half of the 20th century. While its activity was centered in Harlem during the 1920’s and 1930’s, its geographic boundaries were porous—most of the prominent writers spent at least some time in Harlem but also lived and worked throughout the United States and occasionally traveled to Europe. The diversity of writing during the Harlem Renaissance reflects participants’ resistance to ideological conformity and commitment to artistic independence.
In this course, we will read the major work of all of the primary participants, as well as some shorter work by less well-known figures. Readings will include novels, short stories, essays, poetry, and autobiographical writing, as well as some secondary material. We will explore questions of racial identity and of national identity, expectations of genre, critical advantages and disadvantages of a label like “Harlem Renaissance,” the relationship of this writing to modernism more broadly, the relationship of this writing to other arts—especially music and painting—and other topics reflecting student interest.
Fauset—Plum Bun
Hughes—The Ways of White Folks
Hurston—Their Eyes Were Watching God
Johnson—The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader
The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance


EN 595: Image/Text: History Theory Practice
Instructors:  Rachel May (rmay@nmu.edu), Russell Prather (rprather@nmu.edu)

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will explore the history, theory, practice and contemporary relevance of word and image combination.

The course will trace the evolution of image/text relationships, going back at least as far as Plato, through a range of topics including: pictographs & hieroglyphs (selected Ancient Egyptian & Chinese texts, and 19th century Lakota Winter Counts); word and image in Medieval art; the Ut Pictura Poesis tradition (as in painting, so in poetry) and its detractors (eg. Gotthold Lessing, Clement Greenberg); 17th & 18th century haiga (Japanese painting & haiku); 18th century engraving (eg. William Hogarth, James Gillray, William Blake); the synergy between 19th century visual art (painting/photography) and literature (eg. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron); Emily Dickinson’s fascicles as image/text; image/text as resistance (19th century African & African-American story quilts); early modernist/avant-garde hybrid forms and experimentation (eg. Stéphane Mallarmé, Guillaume Apollinaire, Hanna Hoch, Andre Breton, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Max Ernst).

The latter half of the course will emphasize modern and contemporary examples of ImageText, an increasingly popular and significant hybrid art form, likely to include concrete poetry (eg. Ian Hamilton Finlay), children’s books (eg. Maurice Sendak, Maria Kalman), “vernacular” art (eg. Stella Waitzkin, Adolph Wolfli, Henry Darger,), graphic novels/comics (Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware), artist’s books (Tom Phillips, Ann Hamilton, Stephanie Brody-Lederman, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha) and contemporary visual art (eg. Mel Bochner, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Roni Horn).

The New Laokoon: An Essay On the Confusion of The Arts, Irving Babbit
Dictée, Theresa Hak Kyoung Cha
Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art, William J. Diebold
The Century of Artists’ Books, Johanna Drucker
“Towards a Newer Laocoon,” Clement Greenberg
Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian, ed. Greene & Thornton
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology, W. J. T. Mitchell
Image, Music, Text, Roland Barthes
Haiku: Its History Through Poems and Paintings by Japanese Masters, Stephen Addiss
Building Stories, Chris Ware
Torture of Women, Nancy Spero

Art, Word and Image: 2,000 Years of Visual/Textual Interaction, Eds. Hunt, Lomas, Corris
Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art, Ed. Simon Morley
It is Almost That: A Collection of Image+Text Works by Women Artists & Writers, Ed. Lisa Pearson
Art and Text, Ed. Aimee Selby

(Plus excerpts from other texts as well as articles on theory of image-text & narrative, made available as handouts.)